Urban Tech Connect // Forward 2022 Beta

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Startups UTC 2019

Meet Carmen Palofox of MiLA Capital at Urban Tech Connect

“Carmen is a Partner at MiLA.vc, venture capital fund that invests in pre-seed and seed-stage hardware startups across industries including Food & AgTech, Cleantech & New Materials, Biotech & Medical Devices, and Mobility & Aerospace. Carmen’s focus at MiLA is coaching entrepreneurs on finance and strategic planning, and managing venture fund operations. She was formerly VP at Dimensional Fund Advisors, where she scaled operations into new markets including Latin America, Canada, and Europe

Carmen has an MBA from Berkeley-Haas, an MA in sports management from USF, and a BA in economics from USC. She is on the advisory board at Santa Monica City College’s Business Department, Aura; a venture capital-backed Fintech startup, and PledgeLA. Carmen is also an Aspen Institute Ricardo Salinas Scholar.

 

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Startups UTC 2019

Anthony Mays talks about his Tech Journey at Urban Tech Connect

Anthony is a software engineer at Google. Raised in Compton as a foster kid after suffering physical and sexual abuse, he taught himself how to program computers at age 8 and started his career as an INROADS intern.

Perhaps best known for the short BuzzFeed documentary about his journey from Compton to Google, he is a frequent public speaker at schools and other student organizations. He was awarded the 2016 INROADS Trendsetter Award for his work promoting diversity in tech.

Anthony graduated from the University of California, Irvine with a bachelor’s degree in Computer Science. His GPA was horrible, so don’t ask.

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Startups

This Brother Raised 40 Million in Venture Capital

“We’re also allowing brands to join the conversation seamlessly – not as ads, but as branded content that is presented to users when they want to share them.”

Tell us about your role at Emogi and how you got here. What inspired you to start a Conversational Content Platform?

I serve as the Founder and CEO of Emogi a content engine for communication services that helps people have better conversations whether they’re texting on a chat app, commenting on a post, or sending a video to friends. Partnering with leading messaging platforms, Emogi’s technology redefines messaging as a new hub for brands, and sticker and GIF content creation.

Emogi actually stands for Emotion Engine, which I devised in college after witnessing a stark change in the way people were communicating. I built an app that allowed people to share news and video content with a twist. Users could respond to the news posts, and I began noticing that, even if they didn’t use any words, they would almost always share some kind of reaction to the story as an emoji. That’s when I focused on providing 12 emoji reactions for users. This caught on fire and I soon realized that helping people express themselves with this type of content was the bigger opportunity. From that point on we became Emogi, with a new mission to enrich conversations everywhere with useful content in the place where people share the most.

When we conducted user studies to understand why people use emoji, stickers and GIFs while messaging, we found the top 4 reasons were “helps me more accurately express what I’m thinking”, “makes it easy for people to understand me”, “creates a more personal connection with others”, and “simply, a better fit than words for the way I think.” We are at the heart of supporting their needs with our mission.

For the first time, we’re also allowing brands to join the conversation seamlessly – not as ads, but as branded content that is presented to users when they want to share them. Our technology, the Emotion Engine, surfaces content to people as their conversation unfolds, based off where they are, the ongoing conversation, or what they might be searching for at a particular moment as they message.

What’s the most fascinating aspect of leading a content team, and a data science team in an AI-driven era?

It’s a wonderful blend of art and science. I might start out the day working with the data science team to understand discourse and related semiotic theories that when combined with machine learning helps us make sense of expression on our platform. By understanding the connection between content, words, people, places, and time, Emogi’s Emotion Engine can deliver conversational content users will love, when they want it.

My day may then end in conversations with the creative studio team, discussing content creation strategy for a significant tentpole event like the Super Bowl, color theory for social, or making sense of the latest meme that broke out all over the internet. It’s why I love my job. I’m lucky to work with the most diverse set of brilliant minds and have varied and intellectually stimulating conversations throughout the day, on a daily basis.

Given the changing dynamic of brand safety equations, where do you see Emogi fitting into a CMO’s marketing or tech stack?

Our solution gives brands 100% brand safety, 100% viewability, and 100% SOV in targeted messaging conversations. In a landscape where CMOs are losing sleep over brand safety and fraud, we know that when a piece of branded content is shared within the Emogi platform, a potential consumer has made an active decision to share that piece of content to their network of friends and family members because they believe it is enriching their conversation. And we know that 95% of messages are opened within 3 minutes of when they were sent.

The brands we work with have complete control over the targeting strategy of where their content appears. For example, Mucinex wanted to be an active part of cold and flu conversations, so our Emotion Engine optimized content delivery in real time to consumers messaging about topics like being “tired”, “sick”, “cold”, dealing with “mucus”, “chest congestion”, and expressing sentiments like “feel better” – driving exposures and shares of the branded content.

What is the ‘State of Contextual Content technology’ in 2018?

Contextual content will hit critical mass in 2018, and is approaching its inflection point. The adoption of intelligent content experience in messaging platforms will be a table stakes feature in the years to come as users will rely on the platforms to naturally and contextually help them communicate with peers.

What does your ‘Ideal Customer’ Profile look like? Which new geographies are you currently targeting?

92% of the online population uses emoji, so when thinking about our customer we don’t need to do much work there – practically everyone texts and every one is sharing conversational content. When we think about our target audience, we think about the product teams at messaging, social, gaming, and dating apps, and any other platform that has a significant number of users communicating with each other, as we aim to help them deepen emotional expression in their apps by giving their users access to conversational content.

We also have a unique opportunity to allow global brands to reach consumers at moments that are incredibly meaningful and specific to their business. Whether a person is feeling sick, hungry, or beautiful, Emogi allows marketers to reach consumers in those moments.

What startups in the technology industry are you watching keenly right now?

In messaging, most of the innovation is coming from the larger more established platforms like WeChat, Google, Facebook, and Snapchat. However, I’ve been paying attention to Magic Leap. They have the potential to reinvent the landscape for AR/VR and their technology remains cryptic to most. I look forward to their big reveal.

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Startups

Get Mastered on Start Up Marketing with Tiffany Brown of Razor USA

Tiffany Brown’s two-decade career has been spent elevating active lifestyle brands through creative marketing and program curation for global brands like Razor USA, Giant Bicycle and PUMA. Brown has worked the past ten years for Razor USA where she generates awareness for toys and sporting goods, including helping drive the pro scooter movement. As the current Director of New Initiatives she focuses on brand partnerships, building the influencer network with the likes of Devin Supertramp and Dude Perfect to professional league mascots, while also developing consumer activations and managing video productions. Prior to taking on this entrepreneurial role within the organization, she led international marketing and was in lock step with the sales teams to develop localized plans for markets outside the U.S.

Tiffany credits much of her success to her women’s college education at Mount Holyoke, graduate studies at UMass Amherst, her Texas roots, and a love of sport.

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Startups UTC 2019

Anastasia Ellis of BackStage Capital Joins Urban Tech Connect

Anastasia is passionate about empowering others, creating genuine connections, and striving towards financial independence through entrepreneurship. She co-founded bosa, a wellness and productivity app that enables consultants to provide the highest level of service to their clients. She’s also an emerging real estate and angel investor. Anastasia was the first Internal Program and Culture Fellow for GRID110, an LA-based organization focused on supporting early-stage entrepreneurs. Prior to entering tech and venture capital full-time, she served as an Administrative Analyst for the City of Los Angeles and a Management Analyst for the Los Angeles Department of Water & Power. Anastasia has experience creating and leading programs in the non-profit, corporate, and public sectors. She’s a graduate of the University of Cincinnati and University of Southern California Sol Price School of Public Policy.

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Startups UTC 2019

Meet Shamin Walsh of BAM Ventures at Urban Tech Connect

Shamin Walsh has over 10+ years as an active angel investor who gained experience in the consumer space through her early investments in companies such as Sweetgreen, Flexport, Outdoor Voices, and Sir Kensington’s.

Prior to joining BAM Ventures as a managing director, she was a consumer-focused partner at an early-stage generalist firm with tangible assets in 3PL/fulfillment, cold storage/co-packing, and manufacturing, giving her a holistic perspective through which to evaluate emerging consumer businesses. She managed the investment portfolio and served on several boards, such as Alchemy 43. She also leveraged her experience as a transactional attorney to assist in contract negotiations, fund formation, and fund construction.

Shamin received her B.S. in Foreign Service from Georgetown University, and a J.D. from Loyola Law School. Shamin is passionate about education and dedicates her free time to creating access for others. She previously served as an adjunct professor of Entrepreneurial Finance at Loyola Marymount University. She currently serves as the Head of Engagement and Advocacy on the Teach for America Associates Board and as an active mentor with the Fulfillment Fund.